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Kim Jong Nam murder trial:Two women charged with murdering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport pleaded not guilty on Monday as their trial began in Malaysia’s High Court.
Doan Thi Huong, who is Vietnamese, and Siti Aisyah of Indonesia have been charged with killing Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 by smearing VX nerve agent on his face and eyes. Security camera footage from the airport at the time of the incident appeared to show the two women rubbing their hands on the face of Kim, who later sought help from airport staff.
The North Korean, who was 45 or 46 when killed, was waiting to board a flight to Macau, where he lived in exile. He complained of dizziness before collapsing and dying on his way to hospital.
The two women have said they were tricked into taking part in the murder under the belief that they were performing a stunt for the hidden cameras of a reality TV show. Neither appeared to have a background in espionage. Malaysian police said at the time of their arrest that Ms Aisyah worked as a nightclub hostess and Ms Huong as an “entertainment outlet employee”.
VX is outlawed under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and causes death from respiratory failure when administered in sufficient doses. At the time of the killing, Malaysian officials voiced alarm over the notion of a substance considered a weapon of mass destruction being moved through their country’s busiest airport.
Kim Jong Nam gestures to his face while talking to airport security moments after the VX attack © APMurder carries a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia and the trial is expected to last several months. The Indonesian and Vietnamese governments have hired lawyers to defend the women.
The murder is widely believed to have been instigated by Pyongyang, which has a history of ordering the killing of people it views as threats. Kim Jong Nam, once seen as heir-apparent to his father Kim Jong Il, became an advocate of market reforms and had spoken out against his family’s dynastic control of the nuclear-armed nation.
In 2001 he embarrassed the regime after he was stopped at Tokyo’s Narita airport while using a false passport. Kim, who told authorities he planned to visit Tokyo Disneyland, was deported back to North Korea, which he later left to live in China and Macau.
North Korea had a standing order for his assassination, according to South Korean intelligence.
After his death in Malaysia, North Korea tried to block the autopsy of Kim’s body and asked for its officials to be present during the postmortem examination. According to Malaysian police, four North Koreans suspected of involvement in the killing left the country on the day of the attack. Three more later flew home as part of a diplomatic deal that also saw the release of several Malaysian diplomats and their family members who had been confined in their country’s embassy in Pyongyang.
North Korea has denied any involvement in the killing and has not acknowledged that the dead man was Kim Jong Nam.
Kim Jong Un has continued to court global outrage this year, testing two intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland and conducting its sixth and largest detonation of a nuclear bomb.
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